Ogbeni Mo

Moses Akerele, better known as ‘Ogbeni Mo’, is what you would call a sensational exemplar in the entertainment industry. The vibes and aura he exhumes while hosting the red carpet vibes on YAW TV, can be classified as phenomenal by entertainment lovers and socialites. In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, he shed light on his route to stardom, among other issues

Who is Moses Akerele?

I’m just some random boy, just one small boy, I love art a lot, I’m this very compassionate person in terms of relating with people, doing the kind of things I love to do. I’m vast. Basically, I’m a goal digger. I like to call myself a goal digger, because all my life, since I realised that, okay, there is something called hustle, since I realised that I needed to live for myself, and not depend on my parents for anything, I have always been on the move, I have dreams and I believe in achieving them. So basically, I’m a goal digger, vast, creative, and spontaneous.

How was it like growing up?

I grew up with my grandparents, and my sister in the village. My dad was a very busy type person, and at some point we needed to move down with my mum to my granny’s place, to give dad the room to travel the whole world and do everything. And I basically grew up indoors. I barely went out. I didn’t really play with kids. When I go to school, that was the only room I had to play with kids, so once I come back, I am back indoors.  I can only watch other kids playing from the window. So growing up was just me inside the house, playing with my toys, and my sister, watching TV, and trying to explore anything that comes to my mind.

What are your passions?

Drawing from what I said earlier, my passion is basically art. Art drives me a whole lot, it really does. It burns inside of me, I feel like it’s a part of my life.  Primarily, I write, I present, I act, I produce as well. Those are the primary things I do. But there are other things that boil inside of me. But for these things, I have passion for. I started to realise them as I grow up, though at a very early age. I think I started out with writing, before presenting, before acting, but I always knew I wanted to do all of these things. I just always waited for the right time. I wanted to start to unearth them, time after time. I wanted to horn all of these skills and then unearth them time after time, I don’t want to rush. I never wanted to rush. So I wanted to always take it step after step, till I get to where I want to be. So my passion basically is art.

What was it like while in school? Were you able to exploit your passion?

I graduated from the University of Benin, I studied Mass Communication. During my internship, I interned with Silverbird Rhythm FM in Benin and I got retained there, and was co-hosting a radio show and another one on TV. I was doing other things on the background but majorly, I was co-hosting a show on radio and TV. I came back to school and I became one of the pioneers of UNIBEN FM, I was a producer and a presenter there as well before I started Campus-Prodigy which is my own production. So in school, I was working and schooling, I wasn’t exactly the person you will see in school and you will say, okay, I am this bookworm or I am this person who takes school too seriously, because I was just being me. Many people might have seen me as this very unserious person, but the truth was, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what was driving me, I knew what my passion was, I knew I needed the theory aspect of it but I was working even before I got into school.

I knew you were working with YAW, what was the experience like and how did you get involved with YAW in the first place?

I still work with YAW. Working with YAW, Steve Onu, he is a very incredible man. He is vast, talented, and I see a me, when I look at him. I see what I want to be when I look at him. When I was in school, I would send him messages via social media. I’m like “boss, there is something that I am working on, I don’t mind if you want to look through it and tell me what you think” or “I am looking at coming to Lagos to do this and do that.” And that was random, he probably didn’t know who was talking and he would just reply me “ok, drop at the office, let’s talk about it” and I’ll be like “oh! Sorry, I’m not in Lagos but whenever I am in Lagos, I’ll come and see you.” And I bet, till today or tomorrow, he might not even know that we ever had that kind of conversation. But I do. And after I got out of school, before my service year, I heard of an audition somewhere, and I went for it. The name wasn’t YAW Naija Entertainment, it was a random name. And then, I just put in for it. I got an invite to come for the auditioning, and I said okay fine, then I took a shot at it. But then I realised it was his firm, I wasn’t even sure if it was his firm or if he was just standing in for the person, I wasn’t sure what was going on but I know I saw him, and then I presented my CV, to him he felt like it was a brilliant one, and seeing the places I have worked before, then the experiences I have had even while in school and all that. They put me to test, I auditioned, I did like four things, and then I got a call back when I saw him next at an event. He was like “have you gotten a mail from my office?” I said no. then he said “okay come on Monday, and then we would discuss. That was it. That was how I got the job.

How many red carpets have you hosted or co-hosted for YAW, and which of them is the most memorable to you?

Okay, I’ll let you know that working with YAW Naija TV, aside from being a producer and all, I was a presenter, and one of my main programmes was ‘The Red Carpet Vibes’. If I try to count now, trust me, I’ll lost count. It should be close to a hundred or more, in and out of Lagos. I mean, I have met different people on the red carpet, I have been treated right on the red carpet, I have been treated wrong on the red carpet, I have been embarrassed, I have been shunned, I have been appreciated, so it’s just a whole lot of mixed feeling trust me. I might not be able to pinpoint one moment, but trust me, every moment I have been on the red carpet, either for the TV station I work for, or personally where somebody has hired me, it has been fun, all around Nigeria, it’s been fun.

Aside red carpets hosting, what other area do you function?

Aside all of the things I do, I am also an event host, M/C, hype man, I hype for shows, I also M/C weddings, corporate dinners, and everything. I don’t restrict myself. I really don’t like to restrict myself when it comes to what I do. So tomorrow you might see me with a bandanna on my hair, being a hype man for a club or a concert, and the next day I am in my corporate suit and tie for a corporate event or for a dinner, or I am in my agbada being a wedding M/C. I just want to be as vast as that. I want to taste every water there is in my field. So I don’t choose what event. Call me, if it works for me, I am there.

Aside YAW, do you have any role model you look up to. Also considering the fact that some segment of the public feels they see Denrele Edun in you, from your style of dressing, hair style, stature, and especially your vibes on red carpets?

Oh! Yes, I have heard that before, I have even heard I sound like a lot of people, but yes I have always heard that I sound like Denrele, or I have this kind of Denrele aura and stuff. I have not seen it, yes, I haven’t. I am not watching myself, I barely ever watch myself, so I don’t know where the vibes come from. But then, he is friend and senior colleague. He’s been one of these people who has always been there giving me advise and all, but if he has any influence on me, I think it would be having a free mind to do what you want to do in your own way.

About role models, I have always asked myself that what is it I am looking for if I want to have a role model or a mentor. And I have never been able to answer it. But I know there are a lot of people who I admire. Okay, we have mentioned YAW. I like YAW for his versatility, I mean, he is a writer, he is an actor, he is a presenter, he is so many things that have to do with art and he is pretty much good at all of them. So I actually respect and admire him for that. Denrele too, I respect him for his originality. I like Frank Edowo. I think the man sounds very fantastic. In the acting industry, I really do love RMD, I love Olu Jacobs, and I love Ramsey Nouah, for longevity. The fact that they have been there and they are still there and they still know how to do these things, I mean they were not shoved away by the new bees, I love them for that and the fact that they know their craft.

News about you being part of the main characters viewers should be anticipating to hit their big screen come 6th of March this year in MTV SHUGA season 6, broke out last year. How did you land this massive deal?

I have always believed I am a product of God’s grace. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard. Like the popular saying, heaven helps those who help themselves. I am a very shy person. People don’t know but yeah I am a very shy person. It’s hard to relate it but I am a very shy person. But for SHUGA, I didn’t see it coming. Honestly. All my life, I have been auditioning myself for different roles. I can just stay in my room and imagine a character in my head and act it. So, at some point I saw that an international TV series was coming to Nigeria; Smart-Media had posted on their Instagram. But as at the time I saw it, it was late. So I sent a mail, asking if it was possible for me to still come for audition, but I didn’t get any response. But luckily for me, I saw that they were having a hangout in their office, and I realise their office was just by my office, just few streets away. So I decided that after work, I will just close and go there. Then I tried to look for the street, it rained, and I was just walking through the rain, trying to get to where this place was. So I got there, I met a lot of people there, playing games, drinking, having fun, eating, and I tried to join them (unlike the shy me though). I tried to mingle with them, I kept staring. Then I looked for somebody that worked there and I asked to see the boss. I knew the boss, I knew his name, we have never met, but I knew his name, so I acted like I knew him and asked? “Is Mr. Emma around?”, and he said, yes, and I said “can you please tell him that I want to see him?” they asked for my name and I told them. Okay, this was around 8p.m., and when he was ready to see me, I went in and I tried to talk, but there was fear. I wasn’t exactly sure of what I wanted to say. I mumbled a couple of things, I think I told him, yes, I am a presenter, that wants to practice an act that is inside of me, then I saw that there was an audition, but then since it’s past, I don’t know if I can just be closer to the firm, and then try to grow my skills as an actor, while I wait for opportunities to come, and he was like, “young man, what exactly do you want?”. And I said “I want to start acting, and I am just hoping since you people here produce movies, I can be closer to the firm and when they have auditions I can come for it.” He said “okay, do you want to audition now? I said “yes”. And he said “okay, fine”, then he called the guy in-charge of the studio to ask if the lights were still up and the cameras. And he said no. And he said, “okay, try and see if you can put back the light.” The guy went for like 30 minutes and came back to say no, they have packed everything. He said okay, that I should just wait. Then he went around asking for a particular script in the studio, which he got and he gave it to me, that I should go through the script and try to have the lines in my head. I said okay; but trust me, all through this part, I was jittery, I was praying to my God not to fumble. When he returned and said am I ready? Which I responded yes, we went into the studio with his camera phone, and he told me the spot to stay, and he literarily held his camera phone himself and told me to audition. I was worried, I was jittery. He told me to do a monologue for myself, I didn’t have any monologue planned, I write poems, so it was easy to just bring out something in my head and just act it. He said “okay, fine, do something from the script.” Then I did. I was worried that this man is holding a phone; he was tired obviously, because he kept on changing his hand. So I was worried like okay, this man is tired; I hope I can do this? But I did. And they asked me to give them my e-mail and some other details, which I did. I still stayed for the hangout afterwards. And then, after two days, I got a mail, to come for another screening. This time I went, it was a proper screening with cameras and every gadget needed. Honestly, I’ll tell you, I did not feel like I impressed him. He didn’t even look impressed. He gave me some tips to leave with. I wanted to ask him, can I try it again, but I was scared. I wasn’t comfortable with what I did, but I couldn’t ask. So I left. And after a while, I got a call to come to see the director. I went. I met a lot of other people there. This time around the director was supposed to test us. With the other people there, we read. I was jittery because I have another event which I needed to attend, but I have to be here and do this. I did my part then left. I had given up after a long while, and then I got a call to come and see the producer. So I went there, I saw people trying to read their scripts, and get familiarised with it. They were there for auditions I went in later, and saw the producer. And he went by saying okay, “we are considering you for a role in SHUGA”. I was almost happy, but then he said “considering”, I mean; it can change. After a few discussions, he gave me that big handshake and said “welcome to SHUGA”. Honestly, I was elated, I was super prompt inside of me, but I just tried to keep calm. I said okay, and he just said I should go to the receptionist and get my contract. I think, I flew home in excitement afterwards.

What role would you be playing in SHUGA, and what are we to expect from the character?

I will be playing Khalil. Expect to see a young and passionate hustler. Who is creative, considerate, relentless, a fighter, but what is most inspiring about Khalil is how much he knows how to put everything in check, and how much he can be a hustler. He is a serial hustler. That is what I keep telling people. So expect a serial hustler.

When would MTV-SHUGA hit the screen?

From 6th of March 2018, it would be televised.

I have known you since the days of Campus Prodigy; you always know how to take the world by surprise. Are there other projects going on in the background, which we should likewise be anticipating?

(Laughs) I have learnt to always boil my yams quietly. Having said that, there are a whole lot of other projects, but one that is very close to my heart and it’s closer now, is Campus Prodigy, the second season. Yes, I took time to grow, to understand more. I wanted the show to grow as well. I am passionate about young people who are artistic. I mean, I started hustling at a very young age; I was 17 years old when I got my first job. I am still very keen about people like that. I wanted the platform to be something that they would love more to be a part of, so I am starting to shoot Campus Prodigy season two, in a few months’ time, we would start to air it. So that’s like the major work in the background.

What is your billion dollar dream, say in five years from now?

Well, five years from now, you see, when I do the things I do and I get messages from people saying I inspired them, commending my efforts and all, it makes me want to do more. So, I want to do more than I am doing right now. As much as I would always be a presenter, I want to be a presenter on a bigger scale. I want to horn my skills more. I want to be better than I have been, I want to be better than I would be for the rest of this year. So in five years time, I want to be that household name that is a force to reckon with. Not just for me, but for many people who are looking up to me, who have dreams like me, to know that it can only be better.

On a lighter note, how do you cool off?

The truth is, I barely never relaxed, because I am always working. But if I have to relax, like I said before, I would be in my house. Honestly, I would probably be watching TV or cooking, because I like to cook a lot. Or go out to see movies. Recently, my friends dragged me out to the beach. So, I think I might learn that culture because, that place is just peaceful. So maybe that’s a way to unwind.

What is your relationship status?

I’ll just like to keep that off for now.

So how old is Moses?

I am 24 years old.

So, what is your advice to young talents out there who nurture this dream of someday being where you are presently or maybe surpassing you?

You see this thing pains me a whole lot when I see young people who ought to be doing a lot of stuffs for themselves, but are awaiting somebody, or a messiah to come. The truth is, you are all you have got. All you’ve got is you and your craft. You don’t have to rush, if you leave a good impression on people, they will remember you. So, it is not until you think, you have to jump around and look for celebrity or that celebrity before you can make it.  Many people will tell me, “Oga, I want be like you”. And I ask them sometimes, do you want to be like the me you see on the screen or social media, or do you want to know my story to know how I became the me you admire? Because it took a whole lot, hunger, pains, hard work, sleepless nights that I still go through even till date. But the part that many young people see is the glamour. So my major advice to young people is, forget the glamour, and think about the hard work you can put through, you can put in to get to where you want to be. Whatever talents you think you have, don’t wait till somebody polishes it for you, do as much as you can do, it would get you to where you need to be someday. The more we think about the fact that we need a messiah to help us get to where we want to get to, the more we think wrong. Because even these messiahs, they want to know that there is something you have to offer. Personally, if you have nothing to offer, I don’t have anything to do with you, I don’t have anything to do for you. If I am going to introduce you to somebody, there is something you must have done with your talent. If you can sew cloth, be sewing it. If you can make shoes be making it. If you can write, be writing, put it out there. Like, my poem got adapted into a movie not because I was pursuing a producer. She saw what I could write, she saw my posts on Instagram and then, we got talking about it. And then she said, “I want to make one of your stories into a movie.” That was a start for me, I was putting something out there for people to see, and you need to do something. So it starts from doing something. Young people have to understand that you have to put an effort, don’t just wait. And then, you are not entitled to the fact that somebody must help you. No, work hard. The basic thing is to work hard. Pray and work hard. With God on your side, everything would fall in place.